Fight Over Dairy Policy, Not Food Stamps Endangers Farm Bill


Amid hopes that Congressional farm leaders could call a conference meeting on the farm bill as early as this week, a key congressional aid has now said that would be unlikely. According to the aid, plans for the conference have been on hold since last Friday’s conference call between House Speaker John Boehner and the head farm bill negotiators.  That conference call is said to have centered around Boehner telling House Ranking Member and Dairy Market Stabilization advocate Colin Peterson that there would be no supply management provisions for dairy.  Backing up those claims, House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas is reported to have told one media outlet that he is reluctant to put dairy to a final vote by the full conference for fear it could endanger the entire bill.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate appears to have been taken off-guard by the development with Senator Mike Johanns stating he believed the dairy battle had been settled prior to Christmas.  Other issues that remain to be settled are the always-debated payment limitations, an amendment regarding inspection of catfish, and the King Amendment which would ban states from rejecting ag products from other states based on items such as cage sizes.  Interestingly enough, the battle over food stamp cuts seems to have been settled at $8 million, at least by the committee negotiators.
If the farm bill isn’t ready for conference next week, the final conference report would not likely be available until after the break for Martin Luther King day.  That would mean a final vote may not take place until the first part of February, likely forcing the Senate to action on an extension.